Powerhouse Cowboys back-rower Coen Hess has vowed to use his heavier 2019 frame to help fill the void created by the expected loss of Jason Taumalolo to a knee injury.
Taumalolo suffered medial ligament damage to his right knee in Friday night's 29-10 loss to the Broncos in Brisbane and is likely to miss at least next Saturday's clash with the Sharks in Townsville.
Although the injury is considered to be at the lower end of the scale, North Queensland coach Paul Green refused to speculate on how long the team might be without Taumalolo until after the club's medical staff have reviewed scans.
As Taumalolo was restricted to just 44 metres in 34 minutes, the rest of the Cowboys forwards were unable to pick up the slack against Brisbane, something that will have to change should they be without the 2017 Dally M Medal winner in the short term.
Shifted to the bench prior to kick-off, Hess made 76 metres in 58 minutes against the Broncos after running for 77 metres in round one against the Dragons.
Those numbers are well below the almost 99 metres he averaged in 23 games last season and more than 30 metres per game down on his breakout season in 2017 when he averaged close to 109 metres per game.
With Taumalolo likely to be absent, Hess told NRL.com that he and every member of the Cowboys pack will have to significantly increase their output to make up for it.
"Everyone will have to," Hess said.
"Obviously he's a beast and gets through a mountain of carries and metres. I haven't spoken to him so I'm not real sure of the extent of the injury.
"Fingers crossed he's all good but if any of our forwards went down it would be the same type of problem that we'd have to face."
Now 22 years of age and in his fourth full season of first grade, Hess added an additional five kilograms to his already imposing frame in the pre-season.
Struck down by cramps late in the round one win over the Dragons, Hess admitted that he is still getting accustomed to playing big minutes at 114 kilograms.
"Last week I had a severe case of cramps and I'm about five kilos heavier this year than what I finished off the year last year," Hess explained.
"I was hovering at around 109-110 at the end of last year but I'm around 114 now. That's the target that the coaching staff have given me during the pre-season to get to that weight.
Match Highlights: Broncos v Cowboys
"It's a lot different. I got pretty fit running at that weight but game fitness is a whole other beast in itself. Getting off the ground and reloading and that type of stuff.
"It's more of conditioning myself at this playing weight."
Already a five-time Origin representative with Queensland, Hess is not one to set individual goals, relying on his father Warren for some honest feedback on his performances.
"My dad gets into me a bit. He loves his football so he's a pretty good critic," said Hess.
"You can tell within yourself whether you know you've had a good game or whether you’re contributed enough. You just know yourself.
"I've never really been massive on goal setting. I just want to stay in this team because I really do love it."